Standard Lesson

Draw a Story: Stepping from Pictures to Writing

K - 1
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Four 40-minute sessions
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As a class, students read the wordless picture book Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola, telling the story themselves as they read the pictures. Next, they draw a picture of a person doing something, and tell the story of their picture. After sharing and discussing each other's pictures, students draw a second picture to show what might happen next. Working at their own pace, they continue the story by drawing pictures showing the problem and solution. When all the pictures are complete, students put them in order and write or dictate the story that goes with them. Finally, students create an accordion book from their drawings and text.

From Theory to Practice

In discussing two 1984 studies of emergent writers, Marjorie Siegel writes: "both studies showed that when young children wrote, they did not just make meaning through linguistic signs. As Harste et al. argued (1984), talking, gesturing, dramatizing, and drawing are 'an intimate and integral part' of the writing process (p. 37)." In "Different Texts, Different Emergent Writing Forms," Liliana Barro Zecket writes: "..these children's early literacy performance highlights the often overlooked value of using children's readings of their own texts as a way to explore their emergent knowledge of written language. Young authors' readings of their own compositions are better windows to their emergent understandings of the functional aspects of written language than are their written products considered in isolation."  This lesson marries the multimodality of combining drawings and written text with the satisfaction of reading their own drawings to enable young children to use their own experiences in writing to create sequential stories that are meaningful to them.

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • General classroom supplies (blank white copy paper, crayons, pencils, erasers, construction paper (6x9) in students' choice of colors, glue, clear tape). These will be used to make an accordion book.

  • Copies of Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola and/or Deep in the Forest by Brinton Turkle, or any other wordless book with a clear story line and detailed pictures that support the unwritten text.


  • It is assumed that prior to this activity, students will have experienced many read-aloud activities in which they've talked about story elements, including beginning, problem, solution, and endings of stories, and also that they have illustrated their own text and/or events in stories they've read or which have been read to them.

  • Additional read-aloud activities during the course of this activity should be supportive of the objectives, focusing on "what happens next" to characters, how story action leads to problems and solutions, and how stories end.

  • For classrooms in which there are many students who are still emerging writers, it would be helpful to have adults in the classroom who are trained to transcribe students writing during the writing session.

  • This activity is very time-intensive and needs a lot of one-to-one teacher/student interaction, which may require some ‘wait time' for students. Consequently, there should be other activities available to students if they need to wait for assistance with putting their books together.

  • Demonstrate the Printing Press for helpers, indicating which template to use for students' work.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • identify details in wordless books which help them tell a story.

  • draw a series of pictures which tell a sequential story.

  • tell a sequential story following their own drawings.

  • write a story which corresponds to their own sequential drawings.

  • match their writing to corresponding drawings.

  • participate in the publishing process.

Session One

  1. Gather students together for a story. Show them the cover of Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola. Tell them that this book has pictures but no words, so they are going to tell the story themselves.

  2. Have students tell the story page by page, the way the author might have written it if he or she had used words. Point out details in the drawings when necessary to help students add details to the story.

  3. When the story is finished, ask questions about the story elements, including beginning, what happened next, problem, solution, and ending. Have students talk about their feelings about the story. Have them also talk about how the drawings helped them tell the story.

  4. Tell students that just like Tomie dePaola, they are going to be drawing a story, starting with one picture of a person doing something. Have them think about some things they or other people can do. Call on several students to share their ideas. Make sure you get a variety of responses. If it would be helpful to students, use shared writing to create a word chart of verbs they can use for ideas.

  5. Once students have talked about things people can do, explain to them that you would like them to start out by drawing one picture of a person doing something. Point out that the person is the subject of the drawing and the most important part of the picture. Emphasize to students that you and others will need to be able to look at the picture and tell what the person is doing, so they want to include details in their drawings.

  6. Show students the paper they will use (half sheets of copier paper). Ask them not to put their names on their papers until after they show you their drawings. Remind them to make their drawings colorful and detailed. As students draw, circulate and ask them to talk about their drawings in process. Ask questions about the drawings to encourage the addition of details, when appropriate. Allow students to start over if they realize the picture is hard to ‘read.'

  7. As students finish, ask them to tell about the people and actions in their drawings. Have them write their names in pencil on the back, and collect the drawings to use for Session Two.

Session Two

  1. Gather students together to share drawings from Session One. As you show each drawing, have students tell what the person in the drawing is doing, and what might happen next (allow more than one response). When convenient, point out specific details in drawings that help the ‘reader' know what is happening in the pictures.

  2. Give students directions for the second drawing while they are still gathered together. Directions for subsequent drawings will be given and discussed with individual students as they are ready.

  3. Explain to students that they are now going to draw another picture which will show what the person in their drawing might do next. Hand out their drawings from Session One. Ask students to think first about what is happening in their first drawing, and then think about what they want their second drawing to show, so that it ‘follows' the first drawing.

  4. Students who are ready to work should get a new sheet of paper and be instructed to begin drawing their second picture on the new paper. Students who need more support might work together with you in a small group to brainstorm some ideas for their second drawings.

  5. When all students are working, circulate among them. Ask them to tell you what the person in their drawing is doing, and what is happening next. Continue to use language that supports sequential storytelling, using words such as ‘next' and ‘then' or ‘after that.'

  6. As students complete their second drawings, have them restate the action of the two drawings, and have them tell what problem might occur, in a ‘what happens next' context. When they can tell what the problem in their story will be, they will do a third drawing, showing the problem.

  7. At this point, make sure that all students understand that each drawing will be on a new sheet of paper, so that each part of the story has its own page. To illustrate this, draw a series of labeled rectangles on the board to represent each story page, and leave the diagram up through the entire process.

  8. Students will work independently and at their own pace, which makes individualizing each picture important. Because each student is creating his or her own story, it is necessary to talk to each one about the stories they are drawing.

  9. As students finish their ‘problem' drawing, have them tell the story using all three drawings. If students need help telling it like a story, help them by giving them ‘first words' for each drawing (e.g., "One day..." or "After that..."). Then ask students to tell how the problem might be solved. As they respond, send them off to draw the fourth drawing, which shows the character solving the problem.

  10. When students finish the ‘solution' drawing, have them repeat the storytelling process, then ask them how their story might end. Have them draw the ending of the story.

  11. As students complete the entire sequence of drawings, they need to read their drawings in order to tell the story. Have them put the drawings in order and collect them, or have students keep them safe in a folder.

Session Three

  1. Gather all students together for directions. Ask two or three students to volunteer to tell their story orally, while showing their pictures.

  2. Explain to students that they are now going to write the story that goes with the drawings, and that they will write on a separate piece of paper for each drawing. Using the row of rectangles drawn on the board, draw another rectangle under each one, to demonstrate that each drawing will have its own page of writing.

  3. Brainstorm some ways that stories might begin ("One day," "One summer day," etc.), and write students' ideas on the board.

  4. Students will work independently to write their stories. They should show you or another adult their writing as they finish each page, and put each page of writing on top of or under its corresponding drawing.

  5. Have students read through their own stories, and make sure the pages are in order before they start writing. As they work independently, circulate and have them read their writing aloud, and match their writing to their pictures. Since this is published work, spelling should be conventional, so students should be encouraged to use environmental print, a word wall, and adult resources to help them with spelling. Use "sticky notes" to write unfamiliar words for students to copy, and have plenty of good erasers handy for making corrections. Students who are still emergent writers should have close adult support, and if possible, should have adults handy to transcribe their stories for them. Alternatively, upper grade buddies can help them with the writing, or conventional writing can be added to each page, under students' writing.

  6. As students finish their writing, have them separate the writing from the drawings and put each section in sequence. Have students put their stories away in a work folder or collect them.

Session Four

  1. Before starting, decide the best way to distribute sheets of 6x9 construction paper to each student. They will each initially need five sheets of one color, and later will need one additional sheet for a cover/title page.

  2. Gather students together for directions. Explain that they are going to lay their drawings out in a long row on colored paper so that they can read their story. Show them how they will be putting each page on top of a sheet of construction paper so that each page will have a colored border. Demonstrate if necessary, or show a model.

  3. Explain that they are going to glue each drawing on construction paper first (6x9), and then their pages will be taped together. Make sure students understand that they are only using their drawings first, that they should put aside the writing pages for later.

  4. When all students have their construction paper and stories, they will work independently to glue their drawings on construction paper and then arrange their stories in sequential order. As students get their stories arranged in order, have them read their stories to you as you tape the construction paper sheets together to make the accordion book.

  5. When all the pages are taped together in sequence, turn the strip over so that the pages are still ‘right side up' but you are looking at the back. Have students put their writings onto the construction paper, in sequential order from left to right, so that they can read the story. Some students may want to place their written stories from right to left to make the writings correspond to the drawings on the reverse side. This work needs to be checked before the written stories are glued down.

  6. As students finish gluing their writings down individually, do one last check for left-to-right sequence, and turn the story back over so that the drawings are showing. On the left side, before the beginning of the story, tape another sheet of construction paper to the strip. Have students write a title for their story on a half sheet of white paper. They should make it colorful and include a small illustration that goes with the story. When it's finished, have students glue it on the construction paper.

  7. Have students write "Written and Illustrated by (their name)" on another sheet of white paper. Draw a model on the board for students to copy from. These will be glued on the reverse side of the title page.

  8. When the book is finished, accordion fold it so that the cover page is on top. As pages are turned, the picture story unfolds and then the reader keeps turning pages to read the written version of the story.


  • Students can write the story first and then do the drawings.

  • Students can make a regular, stapled book rather than an accordion book. Use the Printing Press for your final drafts. Alternately, have students draw and write on regular paper and then create a book cover or dust jacket for their books using the Book Cover Creator. The tool does not include an option to save the work, so be sure that students do enough planning that they will be able to complete their covers in one session.

  • Instead of individual books, a collaborative class book can be made, or a series of accordion books created by collaborative groups of students.

  • Team up with upper grade buddies to make collaborative books.

  • Have students create nonfiction accordion books.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Teacher observation and notes of student work process and class discussions.

  • Individual student/teacher interviews.

  • Individual students' finished products.

  • Indiviaul students’ readings of their own stories.